Wikileaks: Samir Geagea’

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wikileaks: Samir Geagea’: “Michel Sleiman is not a leader …& we are running out of money…we prefer Siniora, but Mikati would do”

C O N F I D E N T I A L — BEIRUT
SUBJECT: LEBANON: MARCH 14 CHRISTIANS STILL FACE INTERNAL CHALLENGES
Classified By: Ambassador Michele J. Sison
3. (C) The Ambassador, accompanied by PolOff, met with Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea and his aides Elie Khoury and Joseph Nehme on April 16 at Geagea´s headquarters in Maarab. Ambassador remarked that the Embassy had commemorated earlier in the day the 26th anniversary of the April 18, 1983 Embassy bombing. Geagea recalled that on that day he had been surrounded by the forces of his then enemy,
now March 14 political ally, Walid Jumblatt, in the “War of the Mountains” in the village of Deir Qamar in the Chouf.
4. (C) According to Geagea, Jumblatt is firmly in the March 14 camp, but is “hedging his bets.” “Like all of us,” Geagea said, “Jumblatt feels the consequences of March 14 mismanagement.”
5. (C) Noting that the four March 14 leaders (majority leader Saad Hariri, former president and Kataeb leader Amine Gemayel, Jumblatt, and himself) had not met as a group since April 2, Geagea calculated that they have resolved “70 to 80” percent of their disputes in forming the candidates´ lists for the June 7 parliamentary elections. All of the conflicts between Kataeb and LF have been resolved, he said, adding “at our expense” under his breath, and now he is meeting with Saad to finalize the list for the northern district Akkar where, he argued, LF has a strong presence.
6. (C) The Ambassador urged Geagea to continue focusing on the big picture for March 14, rather than on individual party gains. Geagea requested that the Ambassador try to convince March 14 member and independent Chouf candidate Ghattas khoury (Ref A) to withdraw his candidacy because he was competing against the other March 14 candidates.(Geagea’ is a champion of ‘NO foreign interference in Lebanese affairs!)….
8. (C) Geagea said that Baabda was problematic because despite a “respectable March 14 list,” the Aounists and Hizballah supporters outnumber March 14 followers….
9. (C) Noting that his wife, MP Setrida Geagea, and LF member and Environment Minister Tony Karam have been encouraging Lebanese expatriates from North America, Europe, and the Gulf to vote in Lebanon, Geagea estimated that thousands will vote, particularly in key districts such as Zgharta, Zahle, and Batroun. He added that there are thousands of Sunni Lebanese living in Syria who would come to vote in the elections, but would likely “be influenced” by the Syrian regime. Geagea privately confided to the Ambassador that March 14 has run out of money. ….
10. (C) Commending the U.S. for its firm policy stance on Hizballah, Geagea suggested that the U.S. refrain from attacking March 8 in the lead-up to the elections, and instead aim to clarify that its position on Hizballah is not linked to the elections. Addressing clashes between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the drug-related criminals in Baalbeck starting April 13, Geagea absolved Hizballah of all blame, commenting that despite its heavy presence in the area, Hizballah is staying out of the conflict.
11. (C) Geagea was unconcerned about the Syrian troop buildup along the border, saying that it was in support of the LAF´s action against the drug criminals. (Comment: This is a marked contrast from October 2008, when Geagea feared an imminent Syrian invasion after its troops deployed along the northern Lebanon border to fight smuggling, Ref B. End comment.)
12. (C) However, Geagea said, Hizballah violated Egypt´s state sovereignty by sending Hizballah members illegally into Egypt. Even if they were only intending to help the Palestinians, Geagea assessed, it was wrong. However, Egypt´s threat to arrest Hizballah SYG Hassan Nasrallah and his deputy Sheikh Naim Qassem was “a declaration of war” and would provoke some sort of response from Hizballah, he believed….
14. (C) Noting that President Michel Sleiman spoke about strengthening the role of the president, Geagea said Sleiman is “not a leader” and his proposal would not amount to anything because Sleiman would not secure a two-thirds majority in parliament required to amend the constitution…
16. (C) “We should not assume that (Speaker Nabih) Berri stays on as speaker, or that Saad is the next PM,” Geagea said with conviction. At a minimum, he proposed, March 14 should condition acceptance of Berri on certain points, such as requiring that parliament stay open…
17. (C) Geagea posited that March 14 members needed to discuss at length whether Saad is the best option for the next PM. He pointed out that March 14 could get concessions from March 8, such as no insistence on having a blocking third in the cabinet, if it agreed to name independent figure and former PM Najib Mikati as the next PM. (Comment: Geagea´s hesitation to support Saad´s premiership is not new; in May 2008, he lobbied hard to keep Siniora as PM, instead of Saad — Ref C. End comment.)
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